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Deep in the heart of Gabon, a poorly developed country on central Africa's west coast, scores of orangutans stretch lazily in the sun. Fat boa constrictors slither quickly through the dried grass beneath while birds flutter overhead, their flight path unobstructed.
But Gabon wasn't always this lazy animal paradise. According to worldwide timber corporation Macmillan Bloedel, Gabon used to be one of the most dangerous places in Africa.
"Just three years ago, 90 percent of the country lay covered in a dense mat of forest and vine, a dark, dangerous retreat from the sun's life-giving rays," said Bloedel spokesperson Henry Roth. "This merciless oasis of evil spread across Africa and South America from coast to coast."
Luckily, all of that is changing.
The world's rain forests are rapidly disappearing just in the nick of time, according to key members of the logging industry. Macmillan Bloedel reports that, through their efforts, the country's animals have made an astounding recovery.
"We're talking about sun-starved animals languishing for years under Mother Nature's cruel canopy," said timber lobbyist Henry Roth. "It's a miracle that these animals survived this long without our help. Now they're finally getting the vitamin D that their bodies so desperately need."
It’s a miracle that these animals survived this long without our help. Now they’re finally getting the vitamin D that their bodies so desperately need.
Less than a century ago, a dense expanse of rain forest stretched from sea to sea in central Africa. Exotic plants and animals struggled for survival there, hidden from the world alongside untold numbers of human tribes passively coexisting with Nature. Now, Roth contends, scientists can learn so much from creatures once off-limits to the world.
"Back in 1983 we didn't know the sun-tailed monkey even existed," said African zoologist Dr. Nishai Barr. "But once loggers got that dense jungle out of the way, all sorts of animals came out of the woodwork."
Primates aren't the only animals soaking up the sun. According to Dr. Barr, once-hidden birds now pepper Gabon's azure sky.
"Back when all those forests dotted the land, the majestic bare headed rock fowl could not fly in a straight line without whacking its head on a branch," said Dr. Barr. "You could not walk fifteen yards in the lush, verdant jungle without stumbling over the corpse of a picatharte."
Animals aren't the only ones benefiting from the removal of Gabon's rainforests. According to government officials, the removal of the rainforest benefits all of humankind.
"Everyone knows that the rainforest may hold untold numbers of medicinal plants capable of curing any disease known to man," said Faustin Boukabi, Minister of Public Health. "But how can doctors find such things with all those trees blocking the way? You can not even see down by helicopter."
"The cure for cancer could be right under your nose and you would never find it out in the rainforest. You would have to cut your way through with a machete just to find a tap root," Boukabi continued. "Loggers have fixed this, yes they have. Now doctors can just walk along the bulldozed fields and pick up scraps of plant at their leisure."
Paul Boundoukou-Latha, ambassador to the United States, credits rainforest depletion for modernizing Gabon. The country's citizens, many of whom once existed as a peppered assortment of tribes living deep within the steamy jungles, now live together as one.
"Our efforts have taken these tribes out of the Stone Age and thrust them into the world spotlight," said Boundoukou-Latha, gingerly chewing on the stem of a threatened Orchidaceae flower. "Twenty years ago none of these tribesmen could ever dream of owning a sun roof or achieving a balanced tan. Now they can do both."